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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday: And the Crowd Goes Wild! with Carol-Ann Hoyte and Heidi Bee Roemer

Carol-Ann Hoyte, left, Heidi Bee Roemer, and illustration by Kevin Sylvester
Curious about the upcoming sports-themed anthology, just in time for the Olympics, from poets Carol-Ann Hoyte and Heidi Bee Roemer ? Me, too! The collection will feature dozens of poems from emerging and familiar names alike, along with lively illustrations by Kevin Sylvester. It will be available as a paperback and also as an e-book.

After And the Crowd Goes Wild! was featured on Sylvia Vardell’s wonderful Poetry for Children blog, I asked these two poetic go-getters if they’d share a little more here for our final Poetry Friday post of National Poetry Month. They kindly obliged.

(For the Poetry For Children post, click here. You’ll find an interview by graduate student Abby Hancock and the poem “Pianoball” by Jocelyn Shipley.)

Let’s start with a poem from the collection:

Sore Sport

It stinks that the ref blew the call,
And you’re sore ‘cuz you took a bad fall.
    Well ponder this, fella,
    As your bruises turn yella,
For one day, try being the ball.

-- M Sullivan (United States)



Clever, eh? Now let’s go behind the scenes with the editors. How did you two meet, and how did you decide to create a poetry collection together?

HEIDI: Carol-Ann sparked the idea of creating a sports poetry anthology. To my great delight, she invited me to be co-editor on the project. We became acquainted through cyberspace; our communication has been almost solely by email. Believe it or not, to date we’ve only talked on the phone twice!

This collection promises to have something for everybody. Why was it important to you all to include sports experiences from all over the world?

CAROL-ANN: The Olympics inspired me to create this book so I wanted to embrace the event's spirit by bringing poets from around the globe together. The worldwide exploration of the theme is significant as it offers fresh perspectives into familiar sports, introduces readers to unknown sports and expands their knowledge of less-familiar sports, exposes them to different varieties of the English language, and conveys subtle clues as to which sports are popular in certain countries.

It’s wonderful to see that you’ll be highlighting Paralympics and Special Olympics athletes. Was your vision inclusive from the beginning, or did it grow and evolve as you worked on the project?

HEIDI: Priscila Uppal’s Winter Sport: Poems (2010) inspired me. I learned that the early Olympic Games (1912 to 1948) included five art categories: architecture, literature, music, painting and sculpture. From her book I also gained new insight about aboriginal sports and sports for disabled athletes. Yes, our intention from the get-go was to include poems about Special Olympians and Paralympians; Priscila's writings simply confirmed that these athletes’ tales of inspiration and courage needed to be represented in our collection. In addition, I’m honored that Priscila, poet-in-residence for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games, wrote the foreword for And the Crowd Goes Wild!

CAROL-ANN: I had initially envisioned an anthology aimed at readers aged 5 to 12. But then we received so many stellar, sophisticated poems which we felt would be most accessible and relevant to as well as appreciated by older elementary school children. As a result, we opted to narrow our target audience to 8- to 12-year-old children. Heidi also recommended that the collection feature a wide range of poetic forms so as to strengthen it, enhance its appeal, and heighten its marketability. As a result of following her recommendation, we ended up with a collection which features 20 different poetic forms.


What are some of your favorite sports or themes included in the collection? (I know – all of them! But pretty please give us a sneak peek….)

HEIDI: The inspirational poems about athletes with disabilities hold a special place in my heart. From Laura Purdie Salas’ roundel, readers learn about goalball, an official sport of the Paralympic Games designed for visually impaired athletes. Michelle Schaub penned a mono-meter poem about a courageous paraplegic who soars downhill at breathless speed on a mono-ski. Kimberly Douglas Hancock’s heartwarming verse in honor of her young nephew focuses on the winning attitude of special needs athletes, while Carmela Martino’s “At the Chicago Marathon” reveals the poet’s admiration of Richard Whitehead, a Paralympic runner born without legs.

CAROL-ANN: Patricia Cooley (U.S.) pays tribute to chess with her clever and dramatic poem "The King's Gambit." I am thrilled to feature this piece in the collection because I view chess as a truly international sport. While visiting other countries you might have trouble locating people who speak English but when abroad you’ll always be sure to find folks who know how to play chess. I am excited that children will “hear” how the English language “sounds” as it is spoken by poets living in other countries.

There are two poems which stand out for me because of their clever and surprising juxtaposition. Heather Delabre presents a dialogue between a football player and ballet dancer in her two-voice poem“The Master Dance." Jocelyn Shipley presents a youngster who tells of her desire to play baseball with her friends as she reluctantly practices playing the piano in “Pianoball.”


Fifty poems from established and emerging poets – from ten countries! How did you manage this feat logistically, and in such a timely way?

CAROL-ANN: We would have been pleased to feature poets from even more countries but unfortunately the material we received from six countries was not strong enough in content and/or writing quality to merit further consideration for inclusion in the anthology. I sought assistance from my network of children’s poets and other kidlit professionals to circulate the call for submissions. I also initiated contact with poetry organizations around the world to help do the same. The London 2012 Summer Olympics prompted me to complete the project in a timely matter. I wanted the collection to be released around the time of the Olympics so that we could tap into the energy and excitement of the event to promote our book.

What have been the greatest challenges and greatest rewards of becoming publishers?

HEIDI: Let’s just say I found tracking and logging in 300-plus poems a tad tedious. But unearthing a captivating, well-written poem in the cyberspace slush pile was a true spine-tingling delight, like a five-year old waking up on Christmas morning. Seeing the variety of perspectives on a single subject, sports, was astounding. I also enjoyed helping poets revise and polish their poems. Their zest for “story”, their humor, insightful musings, and skillful word-crafting amazed me. I hope our readers will find be captivated and inspired by the 50 poems presented in our collection.

CAROL-ANN: One challenge was attracting submissions from Europe and Asia. As I self-published the book, another challenge was dealing individually with several key tasks in the publishing process which have been divided among and handled by a handful of folks had I pursued the traditional publishing route. One unexpected though small challenge was having to explain to a few contributors why we had decided to not consider their work for the anthology. One reward is the knowledge of and pride in creating a poetry collection for children which differs from most of those currently being published.

Our book features a high proportion of emerging poets (as opposed to showcasing mainly high-profile poets) and offers an international treatment on a subject (compared to showcasing content crafted by poets living in only one country). Another reward is the success in demonstrating that a self-published book can possess top-notch quality in its writing, illustration, design, and production. One final reward is being able to donate a portion of royalties to Right to Play, an organization which enriches the lives of children through sport.


How has editing the poetry of others impacted your own writing?

HEIDI: As a writer, I’ve embraced this anonymous quote: “Poetry is a can of frozen orange concentrate. Add three cans water and you get prose.” In other words, when writing poetry less is more. Lee Bennett Hopkins brought that message home to me years ago when he surgically trimmed my 98-word poem to 12 words –and revealed a haiku “hidden” in my closing couplet, later included in one of his anthologies. Now working on the other side of the desk, I encouraged some of our poets to trim their words, to tinker, tweak, polish, pinch, and prune their poems—and they did so with remarkable results. As an editor, I am reminded that astute writers are willing word-crafters who can lasso an idea, wrestle words, images, and emotions to paper, and succinctly tie up the loose ends of a poem with a satisfying closing line that elicits a response from the reader.

Like athletes, nothing is more joyful to poets than knowing they’ve found their passion, learned the disciplines, overcome challenges, mastered their fears, tested their limits, and honed their skills, all the while keeping sight of their goals. Being a poet—or an athlete—is not for the faint-hearted, but for those who persist… and never give up on their dreams.


Great advice, Heidi! Thanks to both you and Carol-Ann for joining us, and wishes for wild success with the book.

Now, run, pole-vault, or doggie paddle over to The Opposite of Indifference, where Tabatha is rounding up more great poetry today.

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